As a former teacher, I’ve seen first-hand what a difference a kind word can make a child’s day. I’ve also seen kids engage in negative self-talk, and it’s heartbreaking to watch. Positive affirmations for kids can really make a difference in how they perceive themselves.
One student in particular comes to mind. Abel was struggling in third grade across the board academically. Other little boys thought he was cool. So when he started calling himself stupid all the time and began refusing to do his work, guess what happened? Yup, it wasn’t long before other little boys started calling themselves “idiot” and “stupid,” too.
One day, I squatted down next to his desk and told him, “You can do it, Abel. It’s true that you don’t learn reading and writing as easily as some kids, but you’re a great rapper. I know if you write down that rap you’ve been practicing in the hallways, you’ll have a masterpiece.”
He began writing that rap down. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but he thought it was, and it was enough to keep him writing. It gave him the confidence he needed to write another rap, and another. By the end of the year, he was at least willing to TRY working on the actual daily assignment – which, by the way, was never a rap.
I’m not sure what happened in Abel’s mind after that day. Maybe he was using positive affirmations about his rapping to get him through ELAR every morning. Which leads me to my first point…
Do positive affirmations for kids really work?
I’m not a psychologist or a counselor, but there’s plenty of evidence that positive affirmations for kids really do make a difference for the average person. This article from Healthline explains it neatly: “Your brain sometimes gets a little mixed up on the difference between reality and imagination, which can be surprisingly useful.”
The theory is that if you just imagine yourself being great, you can begin to act on and move toward that greatness.
Action is key. Obviously, if you just say something over and over again, it doesn’t automatically become true. But it CAN give you the mindset you need to achieve whatever goal you’ve got in mind.
Let’s return to my student Abel, who I wrote about it my introduction. If Abel just kept repeating my compliment about being a great rapper, nothing would have happened. He still had to get out that pencil and start jotting in down.
If an affirmation is powerful enough to change your mindset about something, that’s a pretty great foundation.
Positive affirmations have their limits, though. If you have a child or student who is struggling with anxiety or depression, I’m guessing something more will be required. These students need real medical intervention or therapy to see big differences.
How long does it take for affirmations to work?
I’m certain this varies from one child to another. It will depend quite a bit on how open the child is to new experiences.
I’ve experimented with positive affirmations in the past, and it feels silly at first. It takes a while to move past the novelty of it all. I think it’s important to explain that to kids at the outset – that saying something positive to yourself just once isn’t going to cut it. After all, if you’ve had negative, limiting thoughts rattling around in your brain for days, weeks, months or years, it’s going to take some time to undo them!
Experts think creating a new habit takes anywhere from 21 to 65 days. So getting comfortable with the daily habit of stating positive affirmations might take that long.
But does that mean kids will automatically start believing those things after 1-2 months? That probably depends on how deeply ingrained those beliefs about themselves are.
How do you explain positive affirmations to children?
Affirmations aren’t that tricky, so teenagers can probably be addressed like you would an adult.
When it comes to explaining positive affirmations for kids, try a script that’s heavy on age-appropriate examples:
Hey! Did you know that how you talk about yourself really matters? If I say to myself every day, ‘Everyone else is smarter than me,’ do you think I’ll feel like trying hard in class?”
What if I say to myself, ‘I’ll never get better at cleaning my room. I’m a slob.’ Do you think I’ll ever get motivated to clean up and make my mom proud?
Today, we’re going to learn more about positive affirmations. When we tell ourselves GOOD things, we start to believe them. And when we believe them, we can learn to do amazing things!
Kids learn by doing and experiencing, so end your talk there and immediately launch into your positive affirmation lesson plans, whether at home or in school.
When kids actually get ready to create their own affirmation, work with them to start from a point of perceived weakness. Affirmations are most beneficial when they target an area in which the student doesn’t feel confident.
Little kid affirmations are both adorable and effective.
Show this video to kids at home or in school. After watching the video, ask your kids, “How do you think this child feels as he’s walking into the school building?” Entertain all possible answers.
Then ask, “Do you think he’s going to try his absolute best today? Do you think he’s fun to play with on the playground? Do you talk to yourself this way?”
Positive Affirmations for Kids Lesson Plan
Mix and match these different positive affirmation activities to create the perfect lesson plan – or entire unit – on positive affirmations.
Choosing My Perfect Affirmation
Try to begin with this first activity. It’s intended to walk students (or your own kids at home) through the process of choosing and writing an affirmation with which they can really connect. This can be much more powerful than just randomly selecting a pre-written one from a blogger like myself.
Download your copy of the My Perfect Affirmation Worksheet for Kids.
Mindful Coloring Activity
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Once upon a time, a really wonderful great aunt sent us this fabulous coloring book for my daughter. If you’re just teaching your own children about positive affirmations, this can be a great purchase. In fact, when my spirited little one was struggling with her temper, we created a “calm down corner” in the living room, and this coloring book was part of her kit.
This is technically a coloring book for girls. However, I just glanced through all the pages again, and there are several great gender-neutral pages. I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase this for my classroom.
In the classroom, you might consider running copies and using them as an early finisher activity as a reward for kids who are staying focused.
Give each student a black marker and a neon piece of paper. Have them write their name across the middle in large letters.
Teach your group about the types of encouragement they should be writing on the papers of their classmates. Remind students to focus on inner qualities. They should write compliments like, “You are always nice on the playground to everyone,” or “You always do your best in class.”
Instruct students to pass their own paper to the person at their left. Set a timer for 20 seconds. Each student will quickly write. The papers get passed around so that every child writes on every other paper.
At the end, each student will have lots of anonymous compliments on their neon paper. These can be posted in their bedrooms or on lockers. The number of compliments depends on the size of the group.
It can be helpful to create a coffee shop environment. Put on some peaceful music and utilize lamps instead of overhead lighting.
Supervise, so you can intervene if students aren’t following instructions. Collect them before each student sees the final copy, and write your own encouragement.
*Hint: this can be VERY enlightening. If you come across a student without many genuine affirmations on their page, you’ll know this kiddo might not be making friends very well. Write a really fabulous anonymous compliment, and then pass it along to a few other teachers who can help brighten the child’s day.
Positive Affirmations Restorative Circle
I used restorative circles in my classroom last year (as well as a few other restorative practices). I got a day’s worth of training from our school district on how to hold a weekly restorative circle in my classroom.
We absolutely loved it, and it really created a great atmosphere. There were even times where we used them to resolve conflict within the grade level.
To see how a typical restorative circle works, check out this video from Edutopia.
To hold a restorative circle about positive affirmations, have each child bring their own personal affirmation to the circle on a notecard or the worksheet above.
PS: one big rule of restorative circles is that any student can “pass” by simply handing the talking piece to their neighbor. No one is obligated to speak, but everyone is required to listen.
Going around the circle, have each student state their affirmation while holding the talking piece. Before it gets underway, remind the group of the importance of speaking with confidence and bravery.
After each positive affirmation is stated, the group echos the affirmation back at the student, simply changing the pronoun.
Student: I can be a helper at home and be proud of how I treat my mom.
Whole Group: You can be a helper at home and be proud of how you treat your mom.
Positive Affirmations Testing Notecards
I teach in a school that is constantly under accountability pressure because our students struggle so badly with passing the STAAR test.
Of all the strategies I’ve taught students for dealing with the test, I was surprised to discover that the single biggest difference maker seemed to be these affirmation notecards.
As I taught kids different strategies for testing, one hurdle we encountered was just a lack of effort. They simply didn’t have any life experience with big tests, and scoring well wasn’t something that seemed important to most of them.
However, I really wanted them to experience the joy of a job well done – and get a taste for success before the bigday.
I worked with each student to set a single testing goal based on their previous challenges. It was important that the kids felt like the goal was both ambitious, yet feasible for them. Here are some example notecards that kids wrote:
“I can try out every answer choice before circling one.”
“It’s going to feel so good to try my best.”
“I will take my time.”
“If I get confused, I’ll read it again.”
On the day of the test, we always re-watched Will.I.Am’s Sesame Street song on Youtube called “What I Am.” It was our testing pump-up song.
I passed out each student’s notecard along with their bubble sheet and test. If I found that they didn’t have the notecard in sight, I would gently scoot it closer and pat them on the shoulder. I noticed the kids frequently glancing over at their cards throughout benchmark tests.
Their scores took a noticeable leap on that test, and the growth was sustained from that point.
FlipGrid or Seesaw Video – Record, Share, Comment
After students craft their affirmations using the worksheet above, direct them to an assignment you’ve created on Seesaw or FlipGrid where they can share their affirmations with the class via a recording.
Then, set aside a bit of time one day for students to put on headphones, and listen to classmates’ affirmations. Remind them to comment encouragement for each classmate.
Sharing affirmations with each other can be a great classroom bonding activity, and it can help students own their affirmations.
Positive Affirmation Journal
If you’ve got some time each day during homeroom, this journal can be a really wonderful way to bookend the day! Kids need a moment to reflect on their personal development goals.
There’s also no reason you can’t use this at home with your kids!
It’s so exciting when kids are brave enough to share their affirmations with the world! After completing the affirmations worksheet above, have students write theirs neatly on a blank piece of printer paper, and decorate it with markers.
Send the kids into the hallways one at a time with a few strips of masking tape. Let them hang the affirmation on their locker door.
If your school doesn’t have lockers, a cubby might work, too!
Sample Positive Affirmations for Kids at Home or School
Always remember that affirmations are most powerful when they are written by the individual and targeted to a perceived weakness.
Nevertheless, it’s helpful to see examples! Here are some that are perfect for young kids.
Being Brave and Taking Risks
I can try new things with a smile on my face.
I can be brave, even when I’m scared.
My mistakes help me learn and grow.
If at first I don’t succeed, I can try again.
I’m tough and I can get through anything.
When I step outside my comfort zone, I get braver each time!
Loving My Body
My body is strong.
My body is growing all the time.
I can take care of my body and learn what it needs.
This is the body God gave me, and God doesn’t make mistakes.
Developing Leadership Skills
I can do the right thing, no matter what everyone else is doing.
My ideas are important.
I can change the world.
I can stand up for my beliefs.
I can help other people and make a difference.
I see the good in other people.
What to Do When Your Kid is Getting in Trouble at School
Finding the Peace Within Me
I can choose to forgive other people.
I can name my emotions and be okay with what I’m feeling.
I can be calm.
I can enjoy nature and be quiet.
I can choose peace and ignore chaos.
Growing in Faith
I am becoming more like Jesus every day.
God loves me just the way I am.
I can develop wisdom.
I can pray to God whenever and however I want.
God listens to me.
God wants what’s best for me.
I can trust in God’s plan for my life, even when I’m scared.
Conquering Bad Habits
I can be anything I want to be.
I am strong and can do anything I set my mind to.
I am tough.
I can change if I want to.
The person I will be tomorrow is not the kid I used to be.
I have enough to be happy.
I’m grateful for what I have been given.
I have everything I need.
I can share what I have with other kids.
I have people who love me very much.
Respecting My Feelings
It’s okay to feel what I’m feeling.
Having a good cry is a healthy thing.
I can yell into a pillow when I’m mad.
God can handle my anger if I’m mad at him.
It’s normal to be afraid or worried sometimes.
I can say how I’m feeling out loud.
My feelings are not bigger than I am.
Becoming an Amazing Friend
I can take care of my friends.
I can tell the truth with kindness.
I am an encourager.
I can surround myself with positive people.
I will help my friends make good choices.
I can be a great friend.
I can be happy when other kids have success.
I am a caring person.
I am a great listener.
I can solve problems respectfully.
I can keep a secret.
Printable Positive Affirmations for Kids
These are great coloring pages. If you’re homeschooling, these can be a great activity to start the day or a handy thing to put into a calm down corner.
Click here to download the Printable Positive Affirmations for Kids PDF.
Growth Mindset Affirmations for Students from Teachers
Growth mindset affirmations can be really powerful for students. So many kids get it into their heads from an early age that “I’m not very smart,” or “I’m bad at math.” Intelligence isn’t fixed, but as parents, we sometimes accidentally convey this message to our children.
Our job as teachers is to help kids rewrite that narrative about themselves! Here are some great affirmations for students. Be sure to check out the printable in the next section if you like these.
I’m going to know more tomorrow than I do today.
I’m going to be a great reader some day.
I’m going to keep practicing, and I’ll eventually get it!
This is going to click for me soon.
My hard work will pay off.
I’m getting smarter every day.
I have grown so much this year.
I am a hard worker.
I am so proud of myself!
When I take care of my body, I grow my brain.
My brain is like a muscle that grows when it exercises.
I believe in myself.
I’m bigger than my (dyslexia, ADHD, learning difference).
I can learn from my mistakes.
I’m not afraid of a challenge.
I may not always get it on the first try.
I’m only in competition with myself.
Printable Affirmations for Students from Teachers
These are great coloring pages if you need a quick activity for homeroom, or they can be fabulous for an early finisher activity. If you don’t have time to let them color at all, consider printing on neon paper.
Click here to download the Growth Mindset Affirmations for Kids – PDF.
How to Print Positive Affirmations for Kids
If you’re planning to have kids color these positive affirmations, you’ll want to print on plain, white, 8.5 x 11 paper, portrait mode. If you’d rather not spend time coloring, you can print them on neon bright paper and have them adopt an affirmation to hang on a mirror, bedroom door or locker door.
When classmates and siblings know each other’s positive affirmation statements, they can help reinforce them.
You’ll have to TEACH this, of course. Kids don’t automatically know how to encourage each other with positive affirmations.
If Jose’s positive affirmation is, “I am a kind person,” it can be really powerful to have other kids celebrate the moments Jose lives up to that affirmation. You can model that in the classroom or around the home, too.